Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends


By Bryan Voltaggio

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Top Chef Masters finalist Bryan Voltaggio’s tribute to the American comfort food he enjoyed growing up, elevated with sophisticated and irresistible new recipes. Bryan Voltaggio brings an authentic love for seasonal, farm-to-table cooking and a playful and distinctive approach to classic dishes in his first solo cookbook. Many of the recipes celebrate his Middle-Atlantic roots in inventive ways, like Crab Waffle Benedict, Chicken Pot Pie Fritters, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Fries, and Spring Onion and Rhubarb Salad.

Voltaggio loves to cook for a crowd and a special occasion, and he has included his menus for the gatherings with family and friends that mean the most to him: weekend brunches, Sunday suppers, Thanksgiving dinner, the Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes, and Super Bowl Sunday. With tips and strategies that will save time and result in unforgettable dishes, Voltaggio proves that the best meals are the ones cooked at home.


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Thoughts on using your kitchen…

The kitchen is the heart of the home. People linger in kitchens if they feel welcome. Even those who don't love to cook have to eat, and therefore everyone ends up spending time in the kitchen. It's where people gather, it's where conversations take place, and it's where things happen. As a chef, I want everyone to feel welcome in my kitchen and I want to encourage you to use your kitchen as much as possible.

People love the idea of a big, spacious kitchen. In fact, smaller kitchens are easier to cook in. When you're working, you want everything to be within a few steps. You don't want to have to run all over the place to rinse parsley, grate some cheese, and then turn down a burner. Islands are great because you can have one side of the kitchen where people hang out and one side where you work. It's inclusive and efficient at the same time. My kids aren't all big enough to help with every task in the kitchen, but they can always climb up on a stool and keep me company while I cook. We've had many of our best conversations in that room while creating something delicious for the whole family to enjoy.

I'm not going to tell you that you need a fancy stove or sous vide equipment to cook well. I am going to tell you to buy a couple of inexpensive thermometers so you can keep track of your oven, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures. A few degrees here and there can make a big difference, and equipment that works perfectly when you bring it home from the store has a way of deteriorating over time. It's not the end of the world if your oven is off by 10 degrees, as long as you know it and can set your temperatures accordingly.

While we're on the subject of thermometers, having one or two digital probe thermometers around your kitchen can be a very useful thing. The basic model costs under $10, and there are even fancy probe thermometers that will send alerts to your smartphone letting you know when the roast is done. All of the cooks in my restaurant kitchens are required to carry digital thermometers, because they are a quick and foolproof way to know when your food is perfectly cooked.

Timers are almost as important as thermometers. In this age of smartphones, we all have timers in our pockets, so there's no excuse for letting things overcook. At home, if I don't want to carry my phone, old-fashioned kitchen timers work just as well. My oven may cook faster or slower than your oven, but if you have a timer and probe thermometer we should always be able to achieve the same results.

In my restaurants, we label everything, and I do a fair amount of this at home too. Get a roll of painter's tape and a Sharpie and keep them near the refrigerator. Label and date everything you put in there. That way, at the end of the week you won't wonder what something is and whether it's edible; you'll be able to read the answer on the container. Trust me, this takes a few seconds and will make life for you and anyone else foraging in your refrigerator much easier. While you're at it, label dry goods with the date of purchase, especially things you use infrequently, and keep your shelves organized. You are more likely to cook if you can find the ingredients you are looking for.

Keep your knives sharp. It doesn't matter if you use a whetstone or one of those sharpening tools they sell in the stores. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. It doesn't cut properly, so it's more likely to slide off fruits and vegetables rather than into them. Dull knives also require you to use more pressure when you're cutting, which leads to accidents. A good knife slices through ingredients easily and your hands direct the motion without getting in the way. You don't need superexpensive fancy knives, though I confess that I own several. You just need knives that feel good in your hands. Pick them up and hold them before you buy them. Knives have different weights, shapes, and sizes. In order to use one well, you have to find one that fits your hand. A chef's knife, a paring knife, a serrated knife, and a peeler will do almost everything you need in the kitchen.

If you bake or cook often, you should own a digital scale. You can buy a good one at any home-goods store for less than $30. Once you start using one, you'll wonder how you lived without it. You'll notice that we included weight equivalents, in grams and kilograms, for all the recipes in this book. That's because they are universal and allow you to see the ratio of ingredients in any recipe, which gives you the ability to make substitutions or scale them up or down. Furthermore, weights are easy to work with. Every digital scale has a tare function that zeros out the weight. What this means is that you can measure flour into a bowl and zero it out and then add cocoa powder and zero it out and then add sugar or whatever else you need. You'll have exactly the right amount of every ingredient and you'll end up with fewer dishes. What's not to love about that?

Pressure cookers are a chef's best friend, and they can be game changers for home cooks too. These are slightly more expensive than scales and thermometers—a good one costs around $100—but if you like to cook they can be invaluable. Pressure cookers exponentially reduce the amount of time spent cooking, so you can make traditional long-simmered braises in about 30 minutes. Electric pressure cookers, like the one from Cuisinart, allow you to load the ingredients, set the timer, and walk away. They don't take up any burner space and are quieter than stovetop models. You can "set it and forget it," and the results will be uniformly cooked every time. They're great for slow-cooked items like grits or sturdy root vegetables like beets. Pressure cookers braise beautifully and are my favorite piece of equipment for making stocks. Today's models are not your mother's pressure cookers. They are safe, quiet, and make any kitchen more efficient.

Finally, your kitchen needs a few good cookbooks to act as guides and help get things rolling in the kitchen. I wrote this book for my family. I spend more time in my restaurants than I do in my home kitchen. When this cookbook is on our kitchen shelf, it will be like a little part of me is always there with my wife, Jennifer, and the kids.

For me, cooking at home feels like an occasion, and often it is for some sort of a holiday or special meal. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Super Bowl Sunday are days when I make it a point to be home. Sunday suppers are important to me too. I like to cook with my kids, and I love when we're all gathered around the table. Any chef will tell you that breakfast is the one meal every day that they can share with their family. It doesn't matter if I get only a few hours of sleep—I'm up in the morning for breakfast with Jennifer and the kids. It's a priority for me.

The recipes in this book reflect the spirit of the food I grew up with in Maryland, the things I learned in professional kitchens, and the meals I share with my family and friends today. Many of the holiday or special-occasion recipes later in the book can easily be adapted for Sunday suppers or even weeknight meals. Holiday meals are designed so you can do a lot of the preparation in advance and be able to enjoy your company on the big day. Cooking for the people you love is meant to be a pleasure rather than a chore. I've chosen straightforward preparations (for the most part!), bold flavors, and comforting dishes that I hope will inspire you to cook at home with your family and friends and to try something new, perhaps a fresh twist on an old favorite.

From my home to yours,


I do a lot of work with No Kid Hungry, a nationwide effort to end childhood hunger in America. Through my association with them I've come to appreciate the importance of breakfast; it really is the most important meal of the day. In the state of Maryland we've made it easier for any kid to come to school and get a good breakfast, regardless of whether or not he or she has the money to pay for it. For me, personally, breakfast is the one meal a day that I always spend with my family. It's a chance to connect and catch up with one another while we share a meal. It's special to me, and these recipes reflect my passion for the first meal of the day.


Cinnamon Roll Biscuits

Cranberry-Corn Muffins

Blueberry Cake with Peanut Streusel

Glazed Bacon Biscuits

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Quick Breakfast Sausage and Sausage Gravy

Coconut-Yogurt Parfaits

Oatmeal with Bananas and Cream

Country Ham Congee with Redeye Gravy

Toad in a Hole

Granola Pancakes

Loaded Hash Browns

Crab Waffles Chesapeake

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits


When I was a kid, my mom would buy sticky pecan rolls and warm them up in the oven. I remember the smell of them wafting through the kitchen and what a treat it was to eat them warm from the oven. These cinnamon rolls are my way of re-creating that experience. This is one of those recipes that looks like a lot of steps but comes together quickly.

Golden raisins are my favorite. All too often the ones you buy in the store are shriveled and desiccated. My solution is to soak them in a sweet rum syrup. This plumps them up and brings back their natural snap. The candied pecans get a subtle heat from cayenne pepper to balance all the sweetness, and the cinnamon butter suggests a darned good cinnamon toast. You can prep Cinnamon Roll Biscuits the day before and bake them off in the morning. That way, by the time everyone wakes up and wanders down the stairs, breakfast is already in the oven.


½ cup / 113 grams water

2 tablespoons / 28 grams Myers's Rum or other flavorful dark rum

½ cup / 100 grams granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt

¼ cup / 45 grams golden raisins

1 piece star anise


2 large egg whites

1½ tablespoons / 30 grams sorghum syrup or molasses

1 tablespoon / 14 grams water

½ cup / 100 grams granulated sugar

2 teaspoons / 12 grams fine sea salt

½ teaspoon / 1 gram ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon / 0.5 gram ground coriander

¼ teaspoon / 0.5 gram cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon / 0.5 gram ground cumin

3 cups / 325 grams whole pecans


Liquid from soaked raisins

1 cup / 225 grams unsalted butter, diced

10 tablespoons / 25 grams packed light brown sugar


1¼ cups / 285 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon / 12.5 grams granulated sugar

1 tablespoon / 6 grams ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt


4 cups / 900 grams buttermilk

6 large egg yolks

¼ cup / 50 grams granulated sugar

9 cups / 1.35 kilograms all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons / 18 grams baking powder

2 teaspoons / 12 grams fine sea salt

1 teaspoon / 5 grams baking soda

½ cup / 55 grams chopped Candied Pecans

Make the Plumped Golden Raisins:

Put the water, rum, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add the raisins and the star anise and stir gently to blend. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a lidded container and let the raisins soak overnight, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Make the Candied Pecans:

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or buttered parchment paper.

Whip the egg whites, sorghum, and water in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, and cumin. With the mixer running, add the sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time until it's all absorbed. Turn off the mixer and fold in the pecans, making sure that the nuts get fully coated with the egg white mixture. Spread them out on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown and glossy. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Candied Pecans will keep for up to 6 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

Make the Glaze:

Drain the raisins and reserve them at room temperature. Put the raisin soaking liquid in a medium pot set over high heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the butter and brown sugar until they are absorbed into the liquid. Divide the glaze between two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes and put them in the refrigerator to chill and set while you continue.

Make the Cinnamon Butter:

Put the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well to blend. Reserve.

Make the Cinnamon Roll Biscuits:

Mix the buttermilk, egg yolks, and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on low speed until smooth. Stop the mixer. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour in one-third of the buttermilk mixture and fold it into the flour. Once the flour begins to clump, fold in half of the remaining buttermilk mixture, and then the remainder, gently folding and kneading the mixture just until it comes together as a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Divide the dough in half. Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface into a rough rectangle, approximately ¼ inch thick. Spread half of the Cinnamon Butter over the top. Sprinkle half of the Plumped Raisins over the Cinnamon Butter. Roll the dough lengthwise into a tight cylinder and let it rest on a cutting board, seam side down, for a few minutes. Cut it into 10 even pieces. Pull the prepared baking dishes out of the refrigerator and sprinkle ¼ cup (27 grams) of the chopped Candied Pecans over the firm glaze. Arrange the cut biscuit rolls, flat sides down, over the glaze; it is okay for them to be touching each other. Repeat with the second batch of biscuits, if desired. Otherwise, they can be baked the next morning. Put the pan of biscuit rolls in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until deep golden brown and cooked through.

Cranberry-Corn Muffins


I am addicted to John Cope's toasted dried sweet corn. Francine Maroukian, a traditional American food advocate from the Workshop Kitchen in Philadelphia, brought me my first bag. It's a family-made product from Pennsylvania Dutch country (available online), and the flavor is incredible. Corn muffins so rarely taste like corn. Adding this toasted sweet corn to the muffin batter gives it a wonderful, fresh corn flavor. I add chopped dried cranberries for their sweet-tartness, and as an added benefit they give the muffins a festive confettilike appearance. Do not substitute whole dried cranberries because they tend to be too chewy and intense and their flavor can overwhelm the corn. These muffins will wake up your taste buds and brighten your day.

2 cups / 300 grams all-purpose flour

¼ cup / 70 grams ground John Cope's toasted dried sweet corn

1½ teaspoons / 9 grams baking powder

½ cup / 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

1½ cups / 300 grams sugar

½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon / 0.6 gram ground nutmeg

3 large eggs

13 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon / 200 grams Greek yogurt

6 tablespoons / 85 grams vegetable oil

1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)

1 cup / 113 grams chopped dried cranberries

⅓ cup / 50 grams chopped pistachios

Grated zest from 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Butter a standard muffin pan or line it with cupcake papers. Sift the flour, corn, and baking powder together. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, salt, and nutmeg on low speed until light and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Put the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk to blend.

With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter, in 2 or 3 additions, and mix until it is fully incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture. Mix until it becomes a smooth, silky batter. Fold in the chopped dried cranberries, pistachios, and lemon zest. Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, about 4½ ounces (125 grams) batter per muffin. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Blueberry Cake with Peanut Streusel


Blueberry breakfast cake is a classic: moist, tender crumb; sweet, jammy berries; and soft, sandy streusel, usually served warm and sometimes accompanied by cold salted butter. My twist on the standard is using peanuts. Peanuts are a classic Southern ingredient and one I've personally never seen in streusel before. I thought their rich, nutty texture would be perfect against the cake. It seemed like a natural match, a riff off the classic PB&J in cake form. What better way to start off your morning?


¾ cup / 113 grams all-purpose flour

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons / 113 grams granulated sugar

7 ounces / 125 grams roasted unsalted peanuts

½ cup / 70 grams graham cracker crumbs

1½ teaspoons / 3 grams ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon / 0.5 gram cayenne pepper

½ cup / 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature


2½ cups / 375 grams all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons / 9 grams baking powder

½ cup / 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

1½ cups / 300 grams granulated sugar

½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt

3 large eggs

13 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon / 200 grams sour cream

6 tablespoons / 85 grams vegetable oil

1 teaspoon / 4 grams vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)

2 cups / 350 grams fresh or frozen blueberries

Grated zest from 2 limes


½ cup / 120 grams sour cream

3 tablespoons / 45 grams buttermilk

2 tablespoons / 35 grams smooth peanut butter

2 teaspoons / 10 grams honey

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

½ cup / 65 grams powdered sugar

½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt

Make the Peanut Streusel:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Put the flour, sugar, peanuts, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend and chop the peanuts. Add the butter and pulse until moist coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Make the Blueberry Cake:

Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan and set it on a baking sheet. Sift the flour and baking powder together. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt on low speed until light and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Put the eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk to blend. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter, in 2 or 3 additions, and mix until it is fully incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture. Mix until it becomes a smooth, silky batter. Fold in the blueberries and lime zest. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Take the streusel out of the refrigerator and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cake batter. Bake for 50 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Make the Glaze:

Put the sour cream, buttermilk, peanut butter, honey, and lime zest and juice in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and salt and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cooled cake and let it set.


On Sale
Apr 7, 2015
Page Count
272 pages

Bryan Voltaggio

About the Author

Bryan Voltaggio is the Executive Chef and owner of restaurants Volt, Lunchbox, Family Meal, Range, and Aggio. As a finalist on Top Chef Season 6 and Top Chef Masters Season 5, Voltaggio is the first chef to compete on both programs. The James Beard Foundation Award finalist co-authored the cookbook VOLT ink. with his brother, Michael. Voltaggio lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children Thacher, Piper, and Ever Maeve in their hometown of Frederick, Maryland.

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